“Portrait of the Artist,” a poem written by English professor Ann Hostetler, has recently been published in the Washington Square Review. The poem is a personal narrative in which Hostetler describes a mother braiding a child’s hair.

“It's been said that poems are a place to save things that you don't want to lose,” Hostetler said.  “Revisiting this memory was a pleasure for me.  It also reminded me of how much was not said in my family—which left a lot of room for interpretation and feeling.”

Hostetler has been submitting poetry for publication since she was in graduate school.

“Anyone can submit a poem, but they have a better chance of being published if they do research on the journal beforehand,” she said.

Since becoming a professor, Hostetler has published dozens of poems in print and web journals such as The American Scholar, The Monarch Review, Poet Lore and Literary Mama, among others. Washington Square Review, which recently published her poem, is one of the most acclaimed journals for up-and-coming writers.

Washington Square’s website describes the publication as “a nationally-distributed literary journal publishing fiction and poetry by emerging and established writers.”  The journal's biannual product  is produced by creative writing graduate students at New York University. Washington Square published Hostetler’s poem in the summer issue.

“Submitting work uses a different part of the brain than writing does,” said Hostetler. “You’ve got to prioritize to get work published.”

And prioritize she does. Before submitting a piece, Hostetler researches journals and looks for ones that most fit her poetical style. Hostetler collects her rough writings in volumes of personal journals, into which she delves—sometimes years after they are scribed—to revisit and edit them.  After this, she asks for critique and editing from various poetry groups and writers.

As personal narrative, the poem functions as a retelling of a memory, yet it contains heavy references to the question of who the artist is.

“The question is, is [the artist] the person braiding the hair or the person recalling the image?” said Hostetler.

The answer, perhaps, is woven into the poem.

To subscribe or submit to the Washington Square Review, visit http://washingtonsquarereview.com/.


By Ann Hostetler

(Washington Square Review, Summer Issue, 2011)

With a crochet hook

she sectioned my hair,

scooped fresh strands

in the crook of a finger,

pulled the links tight

to my scalp. When I turned

she straightened my head

with a tug, warning

if I didn’t hold still, she’d

have to start over, or worse,

the braids wouldn’t match

and I’d look like a horned owl.

So I stared into the glass

over her dresser—the coins

in the Grecian bowl doubled

as did the lamps on either side,

her golden hand mirror,

his brush and cologne.

Above the bowl’s rim

a girl with dark eyes

counting her breaths, behind

her a woman whose braiding

hands dance, her wedding band

tossing the light.